Forget the newspaper want ads, the action's all online

While personal connections still reign as the best way to get your face in front of a prospective employer, internet job sites and social networking for work has shown tremendous growth.

When Jennifer Trevitt was looking for work in Vancouver she tried networking through a few friends and colleagues. 

When nothing turned up there she headed straight to her computer and the internet job site BCjobs.ca. The paralegal, 35, didn't even consider looking at the classified ads in the newspapers.

"I don't think anyone reads the paper anymore," she said. "Anyone I know who's looking for a job uses online tools."

The virtual world is now the marketplace of choice for most job seekers and recruiters.

Trevitt found work as a supervisor of investor relations through BCjobs.ca. And while she was a supervisor she hired three people through the same site.

While personal connections still reign as the best way to get your face in front of a prospective employer, internet job sites and social networking for work has shown tremendous growth. 

Since it went online in 2001, BCjobs.ca has grown at an annual rate of 30 per cent, as has their newer site, Albertajobcentre.ca, according to company president Ryan St. Germaine. 

Monster.ca, Workopolis.com and CareerBeacon.com — Atlantic Canada's largest professional agency — have also shown strong growth year over year as job postings and resumés piled on to the sites.

It was those postings that brought in most of the revenue, and now that the economy has "fallen off a cliff" many sites find the resumés are up but postings are down.

Growth industry

Monster.ca says it saw a 53-per-cent increase in resumé submissions from December 2008 to January 2009, but job postings are down 26 per cent. Workopolis.com says it has lost recruiters and resumé postings are flat compared with a year ago.

Despite the dip in postings, all the sites see their line of work as a growth industry and online recruiting a great tool.

"I just want to say we remain, even in tough times, an advertising medium of choice for recruiters," said Jean Nadeau of CareerBeacon.com. "They still have needs and still need to fill the gap and they will spend their dollars where they perform best."

Recruiters often find who they are looking for on-line, St. Germaine says. A survey conducted by his company in 2007 found that 51 per cent of job seekers were contacted by an employer and 50 per cent of recruiters found their employees at his site.

He thinks that statistic is impressive because recruiters typically advertise in more than one place.

Getting noticed

The problem now is that there are fewer jobs. So how can prospective employees make the most of the virtual world?

"Get noticed," advised Alan Kearns of Career Joy, a Toronto-based agency that specializes in helping people with their career path.

He thinks that more than 70 per cent of people still get jobs because of their connections, so anyone chasing work through a job site needs to do more than just post a resumé.

"Particularly today, it's all about amplification," Kearns says. "You've got to get yourself in front of opportunity more times than a year ago."  

Andrea Garson, vice-president of human relations at  Workopolis.ca, says that's where it's helpful to post multiple resumés aimed at different employers.

Kearns also thinks social networking is another savvy tool for getting noticed. One of the fastest growing sites for professionals is LinkedIn, a site that combines social networking and a job board.  

Membership growing rapidly

Facebook it's not — no damaging photos or personal news.  It's all business (including Fortune 500 members), and membership is spreading rapidly. LinkedIn boasts 36 million members worldwide and a gets new member almost every second. 

The company actually laid off 10 per cent of its staff to remain profitable, but it appears to be making money in a tough market because it doesn't depend solely on advertising for its revenue. Published reports quote the company's director of advertising sales as saying advertising has grown.

LinkedIn also makes money from subscribers who pay to introduce themselves to people outside their own networks, and 900 members have special seats that offer premium services.

Still, questions remain about whether it's a conduit to a job or just a fancy place to park your resumé.

The jury's still out, but Keith Thurgood got lucky. The creative director for Markham, Ont.-based marketing company Capstone Communications found work through LinkedIn network.

"We've been heavily involved and doing it properly for a year — and old clients and new people have come and hired us," he said.

Raising profile

But Thurgood spent time getting himself noticed on the site by joining forums and raising his profile wherever he could. Still, he says online connections are only one tool for getting noticed.

"I wouldn't use social networking as your main marketing tool," he said. "It's part of the mix. I still find more business by going to face to face, real life situations. They all require time. People look for a marketing magic bullet but it doesn't exist."

St. Germaine has some advice for job hunters: Be sure to show your face around and talk up your qualifications to anyone who might open a door. 

"One of the key things is that when you're out there looking for work, it's not the time to be humble."